2:31 pm - 12/03/2009
The Food Stamp Belt: Race, Politics And Poverty in The South
The New York Times ran an eye-opening story this weekend about the 36 million people in this country who depend on food stamps:While food stamp use has grown more rapidly in other areas, the South — which came into the recession with a higher number of recipients — still claims a disproportionate share, as you can see in the map above.
With food stamp use at record highs and climbing every month, a program once scorned as a failed welfare scheme now helps feed one in eight Americans and one in four children.
So who gets food stamps in the South? Recipients are concentrated in two very distinct regions: Appalachia, which is majority white, and the Black Belt, counties with high African-American populations running from Virginia to east Texas.
Digging into the Times’ excellent sortable data tables, I found a few items especially interesting:
* White Poverty in Appalachia: Images of white poverty in Appalachia still ring true. Of the 100 counties nation-wide with the highest percent of whites on food stamps, over half — 52 — are in just three states: Kentucky, Tennessee and West Virginia. Over 17% of white West Virginians are on food stamps, the highest rate in the country.
* Black Poverty in the South … and Beyond: The Times observes that:
Southern states have large black populations and high enrollment rates. More than a third of blacks in Arkansas, Louisiana, Tennessee and Mississippi receive food stamps.But the food stamp data also shows how black poverty isn’t concentrated in the South the way white poverty is. In my break-down of the Times data, only 17 of the 100 counties nationally with the highest African-American enrollment were in Southern states.
* The Politics of Food Stamps: You likely noticed that Southern "red" states known for their conservative politics and anti-government sentiment have some of the highest rates of food stamp enrollment.
This may seem like a contradiction, but keep in mind the racial divide. MORE